Comeback was the storyline for Mitch McKee in Tampere, Finland during the Junior World Championships held in Tampere Exhibition and Sports Centre. McKee finished as the silver medalist in the tournament, with three comeback victories on his way to the title match.
McKee, wrestling in the 60-kilogram freestyle bracket, won four matches on the first way his way to the title match. It was his first appearance in the Junior level, Mitch had previously competed in the Cadet World Championships when he was 14 years old.
In his first match, McKee was able to take down Edemi Bolkvadze, who hails from the country of Georgia. Tied 9-9 in the waning seconds, McKee scored a two-point exposure in the closing moments to win 11-9. Coach Dustin Schlatter, who was in Finland as one of the USA Coaches, said you cannot count McKee out of a match.
"Mitch always has a chance to win if there's time on the clock," said Schlatter. "He's a very dangerous wrestler, he's well rounded and can score points from a variety of positions, and he can score a lot of points very quickly, which he demonstrated today against some of the top wrestlers in the world."
The St. Michael, Minn. native regrouped after the first match, and won by technical fall, 10-0, in his second round match against Hiromu Sakaki. Sakaki went on to obtain the bronze medal for Japan.
In the quarterfinal, McKee rallied back to beat Turkey's Utku Dogan 11-9 by decision in an odd back-and-forth match in which McKee found himself down early and had to battle back to advance to the semifinals.
Against India's Ravinder Ravinder, McKee had to pull out all the stops to obtain the victory. A challenge review on a bodylock position by his opponent was overturned, which put McKee back in control of the match. McKee was able to outscore Ravinder in the remaining moments of the match and win 16-14 to reach the gold medal match. McKee said he was happy with how he battled back in his early matches.
"I'm happy with the way I battled back in a lot of my matches, but I should have done a better job at the start of my matches to ensure wins and not having to battle back from behind," McKee said.
HUGE round of applause for an incredible Junior Worlds debut by McKee #Tampere2017
-- USA Wrestling (@USAWrestling) August 1, 2017
Coach Schlatter said McKee stay composed and focused despite some of his early match struggles.
"He was down big a couple times today, but he stayed poised and made the necessary adjustments. Point by point he fought his way back, scoring big points when he needed to," said Schlatter. "Mitch is not the guy you want to get into a shootout with, and a couple of his foreign competitors learned that today."
In the gold medal match, McKee faced Abdula Akhmedov of Russia, who had reached the final by winning three matches after a bye in the first round.
Akhmedov took down McKee early in the match, and raced to a quick 6-0 lead before he turned McKee to his back and was able to obtain the fall. McKee said he was happy overall with his performance, but he still is focused on things he needs to improve.
"I think I wrestled good, but there are still a lot of things I need to work on. The finals didn't go the way I wanted but I definitely learned a lot from this experience," said McKee. "I can't wait to get here again, but at a higher level."
-- Trackwrestling (@trackwrestling) August 1, 2017
Final Results for McKee:
Round One: 11-9 dec.
Round Two: 10-0 tech. fall
Quarterfinals: 11-9 dec.
Semifinals: 16-14 dec.
Gold Medal Match: 0-10 fall
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